Calculate chess tactics quickly: a practical approach

Calculate Chess Tactics

The ability to calculate chess tactics separates beginners from experts. I am constantly asked by lower-rated players, “How do I get better at calculating chess tactics?” The German chess player Richard Teichmann once said that, “Chess is 99% tactics.” He was right. I’m sure many players would argue the exact percentage that tactics plays in an average chess game but being able to calculate is critical to chess improvement.

Recognizing tactical themes and motifs on the chessboard will make you a better player. The best way to do this is through practice. Strong players quickly see tactical combinations because they have gone through countless tactical problems both in their games and through study.

If you’re curious how far tactical training can take a player, I encourage you purchase the book, “Rapid Chess Improvement”. The author won the under 2000 section of the World Open through a series of strenuous tactical training exercises that he outlines in his book. He also notes that his rating improves 400 rating points in under two years.

My approach to calculate chess tactics

Every chess problem tells a story. Some of those stories involve square control, while others speak to the occupation of a file or diagonal. Every position is different. When you look at a position you should be asking yourself the following questions:

  1. Material. What is the current body count? Count pawns, minor pieces, rooks and queens. Am I up material or does my opponent have an advantage?
  2. Threats. Always look at what your opponent is threatening first. Before you can launch an attack, it is important to understand what moves your opponent can play against you.
  3. Weaknesses. Once you are confident your position is safe from threats, begin to look for weaknesses in your opponent’s camp. Are any of his pieces hanging? Is there a weak file or diagonal you can take advantage of?

Remember, to calculate chess tactics accurately takes practice. The more you solve, the stronger you will become.

Below is a video that will walk you through this process. Please feel free to leave comments/feedback below.